Caius Julius Caesar

Caius Julius Caesar books and biography


Julius Caesar


Dictator of the Roman Republic
Bust of Julius Caesar.
Reign October, 49 BC–March 15, 44 BC
Born July 12 or July 13, 100 BC
Died March 15, 44 BC
Successor Augustus (as Roman Emperor)
Wife/wives 1) Cornelia Cinna minor 84 BC–68 BC
  2) Pompeia Sulla 68 BC–63 BC
  3) Calpurnia Pisonis 59 BC–44 BC
Issue Julia Caesaris;
Caesarion, by Cleopatra VII
Royal House Julio-Claudian
Father Gaius Julius Caesar the Elder
Mother Aurelia Cotta

Gāius Jūlius Caesar (IPA: [ˈgaːius ˈjuːlius ˈkaisar];[1]), July 12 or July 13, 100 BC – March 15, 44 BC) was a Roman military and political leader and one of the most influential men in world history. He played a critical role in the transformation of the Roman Republic into what became the Roman Empire after his death. His conquest of Gaul extended the Roman world all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, and he was also responsible for the first Roman invasion of Britain in 55 BC. Caesar was widely considered to be one of the foremost military geniuses of his time, as well as a brilliant politician and one of the ancient world's strongest leaders.

Leading his legions across the Rubicon, Caesar sparked civil war in 49 BC that left him the undisputed master of the Roman world. After assuming control of the government, he began extensive reforms of Roman society and government. He was proclaimed dictator for life, and he heavily centralized the bureaucracy of the Republic. This forced the hand of a friend of Caesar, Marcus Junius Brutus, who then conspired with others to murder the dictator and restore the Republic. This dramatic assassination occurred on the Ides of March (March 15th) in 44 BC and led to another Roman civil war. In 42 BC, two years after his assassination, the Roman Senate officially sanctified him as one of the Roman deities.

Caesar's military campaigns are known in detail from his own written Commentaries (Commentarii), and many details of his life are recorded by later historians, such as Appian, Suetonius, Plutarch, Cassius Dio and Strabo. Other information can be gleaned from other contemporary sources, such as the letters and speeches of Caesar's political rival Cicero, the poetry of Catullus and the writings of the historian Sallust.



Early life

19th century Italian marble bust of the young Julius Caesar.
19th century Italian marble bust of the young Julius Caesar.

Caesar was born into a patrician family, the gens Julia, which claimed descent from Iulus, son of the Trojan prince Aeneas, himself the son of the goddess Venus.[2] The branch of the gens Julia which bore the cognomen "Caesar" was descended, according to Pliny the Elder, from a man who was born by caesarian section (from the Latin verb to cut, caedo, -ere, caesus sum).[3] The Historia Augusta suggests three alternative explanations of the name: that the first Caesar killed an elephant (caesai in Moorish) in battle; that he had a thick head of hair (Latin caesaries); or that he had bright grey eyes (Latin oculis caesiis).[4]

Although of impeccable aristocratic patrician stock, the Julii Caesares were not rich by the standards of the Roman nobility. No member of the family had achieved any outstanding prominence in recent times, though in Caesar's father's generation there was a renaissance of their fortunes. His father, also called Gaius Julius Caesar, reached the rank of praetor, perhaps through the influence of Gaius Marius, the war hero and prominent politician who had married his sister Julia.[5] His mother, Aurelia Cottae, came from an influential family which had produced several consuls. They lived in a modest house in the Subura, a lower class neighbourhood of Rome,[6] where Marcus Antonius Gnipho, an orator and grammarian who originally came from Gaul, was employed as Caesar's tutor.[7] Caesar had two sisters, both called Julia. Little else is recorded of Caesar's childhood. Suetonius and Plutarch's biographies of him both begin abruptly in Caesar's teens: the opening paragraphs of both appear to be lost.[8]

Caesar spent his formative years in a period of turmoil. The Social War was fought from 91 to 88 BC between Rome and her Italian allies over the issue of Roman citizenship, while Mithridates of Pontus threatened Rome's eastern provinces. Domestically, Roman politics was divided between two factions, the optimates, who favoured aristocratic rule, and the populares, who preferred to appeal directly to the electorate. Caesar's uncle Marius was a popularis; his protegé and rival Lucius Cornelius Sulla was an optimas. Both distinguished themselves in the Social War, and both wanted command of the war against Mithridates, which was initially given to Sulla; but when Sulla left the city to take command of his army, a tribune passed a law transferring the appointment to Marius. Sulla responded by marching on Rome. Marius was forced into exile and command was returned to Sulla, but when Sulla left on campaign Marius returned, and he and his ally Lucius Cornelius Cinna seized the city and declared Sulla a public enemy. Marius's troops took violent revenge on Sulla's supporters. Marius died early in 86 BC, but his faction remained in power.[9]

In 84 BC Caesar's father died suddenly while putting on his shoes one morning,[10] and at sixteen, Caesar was the head of the family. The following year he was nominated for the position of Flamen Dialis (high priest of Jupiter—Lucius Cornelius Merula, the previous incumbent, had died in Marius's purges),[11] and since the holder of that position not only had to be a patrician but also be married to a patrician, he broke off his engagement to Cossutia, a girl of wealthy equestrian family he had been betrothed to since boyhood, and married Cinna's daughter Cornelia.[12]

Then, having brought Mithridates to terms, Sulla returned to finish the civil war against the Marian party. After a campaign throughout Italy he finally crushed the Marians at the Battle of the Colline Gate in November 82 BC. With both consuls dead, he had himself appointed to the revived office of dictator: but whereas a dictator was traditionally appointed for six months at a time, Sulla's appointment had no fixed term limit. There followed a series of bloody proscriptions against his political enemies, which dwarfed even Marius's purges. Statues of Marius were destroyed and Marius' body was exhumed and thrown in the Tiber. Cinna was already dead, killed by his own soldiers in a mutiny.[13] Caesar, as the nephew of Marius and son-in-law of Cinna, was targeted. He was stripped of his inheritance, his wife's dowry and his priesthood, but refused to divorce Cornelia and was forced to go into hiding. The threat against him was lifted by the intervention of his mother's family, who were supporters of Sulla, and the Vestal Virgins. Sulla gave in reluctantly, and is said to have declared that he saw many Mariuses in Caesar.[14]

Early career

Caesar did not return to Rome, but instead joined the army, serving under Marcus Minucius Thermus in Asia. Ironically, it had been the loss of his priesthood that allowed him to pursue a military career: the Flamen Dialis was not permitted to ride or even touch a horse, sleep three nights outside his own bed or one night outside Rome, or look upon an army.[15] On a mission to Bithynia to secure the assistance of King Nicomedes's fleet, he spent so long at his court that rumours of an affair with the king arose, which would persist for the rest of his life. Nonetheless, he served with distinction, winning the Civic Crown for his part in the siege of Mytilene. He also served briefly under Servilius Isauricus in Cilicia.[16]

After two years of unchallenged power, having reformed the Roman constitution to his satisfaction, Sulla resigned his dictatorship and re-established consular government. He dismissed his lictors and walked unguarded in the forum, offering to give account of his actions to any citizen.[17] This lesson in supreme confidence, Caesar later ridiculed—"Sulla did not know his political ABC's".[18] Sulla was elected to a second consulship before retiring to private life. He died two years later of liver failure and was accorded a magnificent state funeral. [19]

In 78 BC, on hearing of Sulla's death, Caesar felt it would now be safe for him to return to Rome. His return coincided with an attempted anti-Sullan coup by Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, but Caesar, lacking confidence in Lepidus's leadership, did not participate.[20] Instead he turned to advocacy, bringing a failed prosecution against Cornelius Dolabella. He became known for his exceptional oratory, accompanied by impassioned gestures and a high-pitched voice, and ruthless prosecution of former governors notorious for extortion and corruption. The great orator Cicero even commented, "Does anyone have the ability to speak better than Caesar?"[citation needed] Aiming at rhetorical perfection, Caesar travelled to Rhodes in 75 BC for philosophical and oratorical studies with the famous teacher Apollonius Molon, who was earlier the instructor of Cicero himself.[21]

On the way across the Aegean Sea,[22] Caesar was kidnapped by Cicilian pirates. He maintained an attitude of superiority throughout his captivity. When the pirates thought to demand a ransom of twenty talents of gold, he insisted they ask for fifty. After the ransom was paid, Caesar raised a fleet, pursued and captured the pirates, and imprisoned them in Pergamon. The governor of Asia refused to execute them as Caesar demanded, preferring to sell them as slaves, but Caesar returned to the coast and had them crucified on his own authority, as he had promised to when in captivity – a promise the pirates had taken as a joke. He then proceeded to Rhodes, but was soon called back into military action in Asia, raising a band of auxiliaries to repel an incursion from Pontus.

On his return to Rome he was elected military tribune, a first step on the cursus honorum of Roman politics. He was elected quaestor for 69 BC, and during that year he delivered the funeral oration for his aunt Julia, widow of Marius, and included images of Marius, unseen since the days of Sulla, in the funeral procession. His own wife Cornelia also died that year. After her funeral Caesar went to serve his quaestorship in Spain under Antistius Vetus. While there he is said to have encountered a statue of Alexander the Great, and realised with dissatisfaction he was now at an age when Alexander had the world at his feet, while he had achieved comparatively little. He requested, and was granted, an early discharge from his duties, and returned to Roman politics. On his return he married Pompeia, a granddaughter of Sulla.[23] He was elected aedile, restored the trophies of Marius's victories, brought prosecutions against men who had benefited from Sulla's proscriptions, spent a great deal of money on public works and games, and outshone his colleague Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus. He was also suspected of involvement in two abortive coup attempts.[24]

Pontifex Maximus and Governorship in Hispania

In 63 BC, Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius, who had been appointed to the post of Pontifex Maximus by Sulla, died. In a bold move, Caesar put his name up for election to the post. He ran against two of the most powerful members of the boni, the consulares Quintus Lutatius Catulus and Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus. There were accusations of bribery by all sides in the contest but Caesar emerged as the victor. The election to the post of Pontifex Maximus was very important to Caesar's career. The post held vast political and religious authority and firmly placed Caesar in the public eye for the remainder of his career.

Caesar was elected to the post of praetor in 62 BC. After his praetorship, Caesar was allotted Hispania Ulterior (Outer Iberia) as his province. Caesar's governorship was a military and civil success and he was able to expand Roman rule. As a result, he was hailed as imperator by his soldiers, and gained support in the Senate to grant him a triumph. However, upon his return to Rome, Marcus Porcius Cato blocked Caesar’s request to stand for the consulship of 60 (or 59) in absentia. Faced with the choice between a triumph and consulship, Caesar chose the consulship.

First Consulship and First Triumvirate

In 60 BC (or 59 BC), the Centuriate Assembly elected Caesar senior Consul of the Roman Republic. His junior partner was his political enemy Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus, an optimas and son-in-law of Cato the Younger. Bibulus' first act as Consul was to retire from all political activity in order to search the skies for omens. This apparently pious decision was designed to make Caesar's life difficult during his Consulship. Roman satirists ever after referred to the year as "the consulship of Julius and Caesar", as Romans expressed the time period by the names of the two consuls that were elected.

Caesar needed allies and he found them where none of his enemies expected. The leading general of the day, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great), was unsuccessfully fighting the Senate for farmlands for his veterans. A former Consul, Marcus Licinius Crassus, allegedly the richest man in Rome, was also having problems in obtaining relief for his publicani clients, the tax-farmers who were in charge of collecting Roman tributes. Caesar desperately needed Crassus's money and Pompey's influence, and an informal alliance soon followed: The First Triumvirate (rule by three men). To confirm the alliance, Pompey married Julia, Caesar's only daughter. Despite their differences in age and upbringing, this political marriage proved to be a love match.

Gallic wars

Main article: Gallic Wars

Caesar was then appointed to a five year term as Proconsular Governor of Transalpine Gaul (current southern France) and Illyria (the coast of Dalmatia). Not content with an idle governorship, Caesar started the Gallic Wars (58 BC–49 BC) in which he conquered all of Gaul (the rest of current France, with most of Switzerland and Belgium and parts of Germany, effectively western mainland Europe from the Atlantic to the Rhine) and annexed them to Rome. Among his legates were his cousins Lucius Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, Titus Labienus and Quintus Tullius Cicero, the younger brother of Caesar's future political opponent, Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Caesar defeated the Helvetii (in Switzerland) in 58 BC, the Belgic confederacy and the Nervii in 57 BC and the Veneti in 56 BC. On August 26 55 and 54 BC he made two expeditions to Britain and, in 52 BC he defeated a union of Gauls led by Vercingetorix at the battle of Alesia. He recorded his own accounts of these campaigns in Commentarii de Bello Gallico ("Commentaries on the Gallic War").

According to Plutarch and the writings of scholar Brendan Woods, the whole campaign resulted in 800 conquered cities, 300 subdued tribes, one million men sold to slavery and another three million dead in battle fields. Ancient historians notoriously exaggerated numbers of this kind, but Caesar's conquest of Gaul was certainly the greatest military invasion since the campaigns of Alexander the Great. The victory was also far more lasting than those of Alexander's: Gaul never regained its Celtic identity, never attempted another nationalist rebellion, and remained loyal to Rome until the fall of the Western Empire in 476.

Fall of the First Triumvirate

Despite his successes and the benefits to Rome, Caesar remained unpopular among his peers, especially the conservative faction, who suspected him of wanting to be king. In 55 BC, his partners Pompey and Crassus were elected consuls and honored their agreement with Caesar by prolonging his proconsulship for another five years. This was the last act of the First Triumvirate.

In 54 BC, Caesar's daughter Julia died in childbirth, leaving both Pompey and Caesar heartbroken. Crassus was killed in 53 BC during his campaign in Parthia. Without Crassus or Julia, Pompey drifted towards the Optimates. Still in Gaul, Caesar tried to secure Pompey's support by offering him one of his nieces in marriage, but Pompey refused. Instead, Pompey married Cornelia Metella, the daughter of Metellus Scipio, one of Caesar's greatest enemies.

The civil war

Main article: Caesar's civil war
An engraving depicting Gaius Julius Caesar.
An engraving depicting Gaius Julius Caesar.

In 50 BC, the Senate, led by Pompey, ordered Caesar to return to Rome and disband his army because his term as Proconsul had finished. Moreover, the Senate forbade Caesar to stand for a second consulship in absentia. Caesar thought he would be prosecuted and politically marginalized if he entered Rome without the immunity enjoyed by a Consul or without the power of his army. Pompey accused Caesar of insubordination and treason. On January 10, 49 BC Caesar crossed the Rubicon (the frontier boundary of Italy) with only one legion and ignited civil war. Upon crossing the Rubicon, Caesar is reported to have said Iacta alea est. This is normally rendered as "The die is cast".

The Optimates, including Metellus Scipio and Cato the Younger, fled to the south, not knowing that Caesar had only his Thirteenth Legion with him. Caesar pursued Pompey to Brindisium, hoping to restore their alliance of ten years prior. Pompey managed to elude him, however. So instead of giving chase Caesar decided to head for Hispania saying " I set forth to fight an army without a leader, so as later to fight a leader without an army." Leaving Marcus Aemilius Lepidus as prefect of Rome, and the rest of Italy under Mark Antony, Caesar made an astonishing 27-day route-march to Hispania where he defeated Pompey's lieutenants. He then returned east, to challenge Pompey in Greece where on July 10, 48 BC at Dyrrhachium Caesar barely avoided a catastrophic defeat. He decisively defeated Pompey, despite Pompey's numerical advantage (nearly twice the number of infantry and considerably more cavalry), at Pharsalus in an exceedingly short engagement in 48 BC.

In Rome, Caesar was appointed dictator, with Mark Antony as his Master of the Horse; Caesar resigned this dictatorate after eleven days and was elected to a second term as consul with Publius Servilius Vatia as his colleague. He pursued Pompey to Alexandria, where Pompey was murdered by an officer of King Ptolemy XIII. Caesar then became involved with the Alexandrine civil war between Ptolemy and his sister, wife, and co-regnant queen, the Pharaoh Cleopatra VII. Perhaps as a result of Ptolemy's role in Pompey's murder, Caesar sided with Cleopatra; he is reported to have wept at the sight of Pompey's head, which was offered to him by Ptolemy's chamberlain Pothinus as a gift. In any event, Caesar defeated the Ptolemaic forces and installed Cleopatra as ruler, with whom he fathered his only known biological son, Ptolemy XV Caesar, better known as "Caesarion". Cleopatra moved into an elaborate estate in Rome.

Caesar and Cleopatra never married: they could not do so under Roman Law. The institution of marriage was only recognized between two Roman citizens; Cleopatra was Queen of Egypt. In Roman eyes, this did not constitute adultery, and Caesar is believed to have continued his relationship with Cleopatra throughout his last marriage, which lasted 14 years and produced no children.

After spending the first months of 47 BC in Egypt, Caesar went to the Middle East, where he annihilated King Pharnaces II of Pontus in the battle of Zela; his victory was so swift and complete that he commemorated it with the words Veni, vidi, vici ("I came, I saw, I conquered"). Thence, he proceeded to Africa to deal with the remnants of Pompey's senatorial supporters. He quickly gained a significant victory at Thapsus in 46 BC over the forces of Metellus Scipio (who died in the battle) and Cato the Younger (who committed suicide). Nevertheless, Pompey's sons Gnaeus Pompeius and Sextus Pompeius, together with Titus Labienus, Caesar's former propraetorian legate (legatus propraetore) and second in command in the Gallic War, escaped to Hispania. Caesar gave chase and defeated the last remnants of opposition in the Munda in March 45 BC. During this time, Caesar was elected to his third and fourth terms as consul in 46 BC (with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus) and 45 BC (without colleague).

Aftermath of the civil war

Caesar returned to Italy in September 45 BC. As one of his first tasks, he filed his will, naming his grand-nephew Gaius Octavius (Octavian) as the heir to everything, including his title. Caesar also wrote that if Octavian died before Caesar did, Marcus Junius Brutus would be the next heir in succession. The Senate had already begun bestowing honours on Caesar in absentia. Even though Caesar had not proscribed his enemies, instead pardoning nearly every one of them, there seemed to be little open resistance to him.

Great games and celebrations were held on April 21 to honour Caesar’s great victory. Along with the games, Caesar was honoured with the right to wear triumphal clothing, including a purple robe (reminiscent of the kings of Rome) and laurel crown, on all public occasions. A large estate was being built at Rome’s expense, and on state property, for Caesar’s exclusive use. The title of Dictator became a legal title that he could use in his name for the rest of his life. An ivory statue in his likeness was to be carried at all public religious processions. Images of Caesar show his hair combed forward in an attempt to conceal his baldness.

Caesar was the first living man to appear on a Roman Republican coin.
Caesar was the first living man to appear on a Roman Republican coin.

Another statue of Caesar was placed in the temple of Quirinus with the inscription "To the Invincible God". Since Quirinus was the deified likeness of the city and its founder and first king, Romulus, this act identified Caesar on equal terms with not only the gods, but also the ancient kings. A third statue was erected on the capitol alongside those of the seven Roman Kings and of Lucius Junius Brutus, the man who originally led the revolt to expel the Kings. In yet more scandalous behaviour, Caesar had coins minted bearing his likeness. This was the first time in Roman history that a living Roman was featured on a coin.

When Caesar returned to Rome in October of 45 BC, he gave up his fourth Consulship (which he held without colleague) and placed Quintus Fabius Maximus and Gaius Trebonius as suffect consuls in his stead. This irritated the Senate, because he completely disregarded the Republican system of election, and performed these actions at his own whim. He celebrated a fifth triumph, this time to honour his victory in Hispania. The Senate continued to encourage more honours. A temple to Libertas was to be built in his honour, and he was granted the title Liberator. They elected him Consul for life, and allowed to hold any office he wanted, including those generally reserved for plebeians. Rome also seemed willing to grant Caesar the unprecedented right to be the only Roman to own imperium. In this, Caesar alone would be immune from legal prosecution and would technically have the supreme command of the legions.

More honours continued, including the right to appoint half of all magistrates, which were supposed to be elected positions. He also appointed magistrates to all provincial duties, a process previously done by lot or through approval of the Senate. The month of his birth, Quintilis, was renamed Julius (hence the English July) in his honour, and his birthday, July 12, was recognized as a national holiday. Even a tribe of the people’s assembly was to be named for him. A temple and priesthood, the Flamen maior, was established and dedicated in honour of his family.

Caesar, however, did have a reform agenda, and took on various social ills. He passed a law that prohibited citizens between the ages of 20 and 40 from leaving Italy for more than three years, unless on military assignment. Theoretically, this would help preserve the continued operation of local farms and businesses, and prevent corruption abroad. If a member of the social elite did harm, or killed a member of the lower class, then all the wealth of the perpetrator was to be confiscated. Caesar demonstrated that he still had the best interest of the state at heart, even if he believed that he was the only person capable of running it. A general cancellation of one-fourth of all debt also greatly relieved the public, and helped endear him even further to the common population. Caesar tightly regulated the purchase of state-subsidized grain, and forbade those who could afford privately supplied grain from purchasing from the grain dole. He made plans for the distribution of land to his veterans, and for the establishment of veteran colonies throughout the Roman world.

In 63 BC Caesar had been elected Pontifex Maximus, and one of his roles as such was settling the calendar. A complete overhaul of the old Roman calendar proved to be one of his most long lasting and influential reforms. In 46 BC, Caesar established a 365-day year with a leap year every fourth year (this Julian Calendar was subsequently modified by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 into the modern Gregorian calendar). As a result of this reform, a certain Roman year (mostly equivalent to 46 BC in the modern Calendar) was made 445 days long, to bring the calendar into line with the seasons.

Additionally, great public works were undertaken. Rome was a city of great urban sprawl and unimpressive brick architecture, and desperately needed a renewal. A new Rostra of marble was built, along with courthouses and marketplaces. A public library under the great scholar Marcus Terentius Varro was also under construction. The Senate house, the Curia Hostilia, which had been recently repaired, was abandoned for a new marble project to be called the Curia Julia. The Forum of Caesar, with its Temple of Venus Genetrix, was built. The city Pomerium (sacred boundary) was extended, allowing for additional growth.

All of the pomp, circumstance, and public taxpayers' money being spent incensed certain members of the Roman Senate. One of these was Caesar's closest friend, Marcus Junius Brutus.

The assassination plot

Plutarch records that at one point, Caesar informed the Senate that his honours were more in need of reduction than augmentation, but withdrew this position so as not to appear ungrateful. He was given the title Pater Patriae ("Father of the Fatherland"). He was appointed dictator a third time, and then nominated for nine consecutive one-year terms as dictator, effectually making him dictator for ten years. He was also given censorial authority as prefect of morals (praefectus morum) for three years.

At the onset of 44 BC, the honours heaped upon Caesar continued and the rift between him and the aristocrats deepened. He had been named Dictator Perpetuus, making him dictator for the remainder of his life. This title even began to show up on coinage bearing Caesar’s likeness, placing him above all others in Rome. Some among the population even began to refer to him as ‘Rex’ (king), but Caesar refused to accept the title, claiming, "Rem Publicam sum!"(I am the Republic!) At Caesar’s new temple of Venus, a senatorial delegation went to consult with him and Caesar refused to stand to honour them upon their arrival. Despite it being believed that Caesar was suffering from diarrhea at that time (a painful symptom of his epilepsy), the Senators present were deeply insulted. He attempted to rectify the situation later by exposing his neck to his friends and saying he was ready to offer it to anyone who would deliver a stroke of the sword. This seemed to at least cool the situation, but the damage was done. The seeds of conspiracy were beginning to grow.

The fear of Caesar becoming autocrat, thus ending the Roman Republic, grew stronger when someone placed a diadem on the statue of Caesar on the Rostra. The tribunes, Gaius Epidius Marcellus and Lucius Caesetius Flavius, removed the diadem. Not long after the incident with the diadem, the same two tribunes had citizens arrested after they called out the title Rex to Caesar as he passed by on the streets of Rome. Now seeing his supporters threatened, Caesar acted harshly. He ordered those arrested to be released, and instead took the tribunes before the Senate and had them stripped of their positions. Caesar had originally used the sanctity of the Tribunes as one reason for the start of the civil war, but now revoked their power for his own gain.

At the coming festival of the Lupercalia, the biggest test of the Roman people for their willingness to accept Caesar as king was to take place. On February 15, 44 BC, Caesar sat upon his gilded chair on the Rostra, wearing his purple robe, red shoes and a golden laurel and armed with the title of Dictator Perpetuus. The race around the pomerium was a tradition of the festival, and Mark Antony ran into the forum and was raised to the Rostra by the priests attending the event. Antony produced a diadem and attempted to place it on Caesar’s head, saying "the people offer this [the title of king] to you through me." There was, however, little support from the crowd and Caesar quickly refused being sure that the diadem didn’t touch his head. The crowd roared with approval, but Antony, undeterred attempted to place it on Caesar’s head again. Still there was no voice of support from the crowd and Caesar rose from his chair and refused Antony again, saying, "I will not be king of Rome. Jupiter alone is King of the Romans." The crowd wildly endorsed Caesar’s actions.

All the while Caesar was still planning a campaign into Dacia and then Parthia. The Parthian campaign stood to bring back considerable wealth to Rome, along with the potential return of the standards that Crassus had lost over nine years earlier. An ancient legend has told that Parthia could only be conquered by a king, so Caesar was authorized by the Senate to wear a crown anywhere in the empire, save Italy. Caesar planned to leave in April 44 BC, and the secret opposition that was steadily building had to act fast. Made up mostly of men that Caesar had pardoned already, they knew their only chance to rid Rome of Caesar was to prevent him ever leaving for Parthia.

Brutus began to conspire against Caesar with his friend and brother-in-law Cassius and other men, calling themselves the Liberatores ("Liberators"). Many plans were discussed by the group, as documented by Nicolaus of Damascus:

Julius Caesar
The conspirators never met openly, but they assembled a few at a time in each others' homes. There were many discussions and proposals, as might be expected, while they investigated how and where to execute their design. Some suggested that they should make the attempt as he was going along the Sacred Way, which was one of his favourite walks. Another idea was for it to be done at the elections during which he had to cross a bridge to appoint the magistrates in the Campus Martius; they should draw lots for some to push him from the bridge and for others to run up and kill him. A third plan was to wait for a coming gladiatorial show. The advantage of that would be that, because of the show, no suspicion would be aroused if arms were seen prepared for the attempt. But the majority opinion favoured killing him while he sat in the Senate, where he would be by himself since only Senators would be admitted, and where the many conspirators could hide their daggers beneath their togas. This plan won the day.
Julius Caesar
Vincenzo Camuccini, Mort de César, 1798.
Vincenzo Camuccini, Mort de César, 1798.

Two days before the assassination of Caesar, Cassius met with the conspirators and told them that, if anyone found out about the plan, they were going to turn their knives on themselves.

On the Ides of March (March 15; see Roman calendar) of 44 BC, a group of senators called Caesar to the forum for the purpose of reading a petition, written by the senators, asking him to hand power back to the Senate. However, the petition was a fake. Mark Antony, having vaguely learned of the plot the night before from a terrified Liberatore named Servilius Casca, and fearing the worst, went to head Caesar off at the steps of the forum. However, the group of senators intercepted Caesar just as he was passing the Theatre of Pompey, and directed him to a room adjoining the east portico.

As Caesar began to read the false petition, the aforementioned Casca pulled down Caesar's tunic and made a glancing thrust at the dictator's neck. Caesar turned around quickly and caught Casca by the arm, crying in Latin "Villain Casca, what do you do?" Casca, frightened, called to his fellow senators in Greek: "Help, brothers!" ("αδελφοι βοήθει!" in Greek, "adelphoi boethei!"). Within moments, the entire group, including Brutus, was striking out at the dictator. Caesar attempted to get away, but, blinded by blood, he tripped and fell; the men eventually murdering him as he lay, defenseless, on the lower steps of the portico. According to Eutropius, around sixty or more men participated in the assassination.

The dictator's last words are, unfortunately, not known with certainty, and are a contested subject among scholars and historians alike. In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Caesar's last words are given as "Et tu, Brute Then fall, Caesar." ("And you, Brutus? Then fall, Caesar."). However, this is Shakespeare's invention. Suetonius reports his last words, spoken in Greek, as "καί σύ τέκνον" (transliterated as "Kai su, teknon?"; "You too, child?" in English).[25] Plutarch says he said nothing, pulling his toga over his head when he saw Brutus among the conspirators.[26]

Regardless, shortly after the assassination the senators left the building talking excitedly amongst themselves, and Brutus cried out to his beloved city: "People of Rome, we are once again free!". However, this was not the end. The assassination of Caesar sparked a civil war in which Mark Antony, Octavian (later Augustus Caesar), and others fought the Roman Senate for both revenge and power.

Aftermath of assassination

Deification of Julius Caesar.
Deification of Julius Caesar.

Caesar's death also marked, ironically, the end of the Roman Republic, for which the assassins had struck him down. The Roman middle and lower classes, with whom Caesar was immensely popular, and had been since Gaul and before, were enraged that a small group of high-browed aristocrats had killed their champion. Antony did not give the speech that Shakespeare penned for him more than 1600 years later ("Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears..."), but he did give a dramatic eulogy that appealed to the common people, a reflection of public opinion following Caesar's murder. Antony, who had been drifting apart from Caesar, capitalized on the grief of the Roman mob and threatened to unleash them on the Optimates, perhaps with the intent of taking control of Rome himself. But Caesar had named his grand nephew Gaius Octavian his sole heir, giving him the immensely powerful Caesar name as well as making him one of the wealthiest citizens in the Republic. Gaius Octavius was also, to all intents and purposes, the son of the great Caesar, and consequently also inherited the loyalty of much of the Roman populace. Octavius, only aged 19 at the time of Caesar's death, proved to be dangerous, and while Antony dealt with Decimus Brutus in the first round of the new civil wars, Octavius consolidated his position.

In order to combat Brutus and Cassius, who were massing an army in Greece, Antony needed both the cash from Caesar's war chests and the legitimacy that Caesar's name would provide any action he took against the two. A new Triumvirate was found—the Second and final one—with Octavian, Antony, and Caesar's loyal cavalry commander Lepidus as the third member. This Second Triumvirate deified Caesar as Divus Iulius and—seeing that Caesar's clemency had resulted in his murder—brought back the horror of proscription, abandoned since Sulla, and proscribed its enemies in large numbers in order to seize even more funds for the second civil war against Brutus and Cassius, whom Antony and Octavian defeated at Philippi. A third civil war then broke out between Octavian on one hand and Antony and Cleopatra on the other. This final civil war, culminating in Antony and Cleopatra's defeat at Actium, resulted in the ascendancy of Octavian, who became the first Roman emperor, under the name Caesar Augustus. In 42 BC, Caesar was formally deified as "the Divine Julius" (Divus Iulius), and Caesar Augustus henceforth became Divi filius ("Son of a God").

Caesar's literary works

Caesar was considered during his lifetime to be one of the finest orators and authors of prose in Rome—even Cicero spoke highly of Caesar's rhetoric and style. Among his most famous works were his funeral oration for his paternal aunt Julia and his Anticato, a document written to blacken Cato's reputation and respond to Cicero's Cato memorial. Unfortunately, the majority of his works and speeches have been lost to history.


  • The Commentarii de Bello Gallico (Commentaries on the Gallic War), campaigns in Gallia and Britannia during his term as proconsul; and
  • The Commentarii de Bello Civili (Commentaries on the Civil War), events of the Civil War until immediately after Pompey's death in Egypt.

Other works historically attributed to Caesar, but whose authorship is doubted, are:

  • De Bello Alexandrino (On the Alexandrine War), campaign in Alexandria;
  • De Bello Africo (On the African War), campaigns in North Africa; and
  • De Bello Hispaniensis (On the Hispanic War), campaigns in the Iberian peninsula.

These narratives, apparently simple and direct in style— to the point that Caesar's Commentarii are commonly studied by first and second year Latin students— are highly sophisticated advertisements for his political agenda, most particularly for the middle-brow readership of minor aristocrats in Rome, Italy, and the provinces.


Very little of Caesar's poetry survives to this day. One of the poems he is known to have written is The Journey.

Military career

Main article: Military career of Julius Caesar

Historians place the generalship of Caesar on the level of such military geniuses as Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte and Saladin. Although he suffered occasional tactical defeats, such as Battle of Gergovia during the Gallic War and The Battle of Dyrrhachium during the Civil War, Caesar's tactical brilliance was highlighted by such feats as his circumvallation of Alesia during the Gallic War, the rout of Pompey's numerically superior forces at Pharsalus during the Civil War, and the complete destruction of Pharnaces' army at Battle of Zela.

Caesar's successful campaigning in any terrain and under all weather conditions owes much to the strict but fair discipline of his legionaries, whose admiration and devotion to him were proverbial due to his promotion of those of skill over those of nobility. Caesar's infantry and cavalry were first rate, and he made heavy use of formidable Roman artillery; additional factors that made him so effective in the field were his army's superlative engineering abilities and the legendary speed with which he maneuvered his troops (Caesar's army sometimes marched as many as 40 miles a day). His army was made of 40,000 infantry and many cavaliers, with some specialized units, such as engineers. He records in his Commentaries on the Gallic Wars that during the siege of one Gallic city built on a very steep and high plateau, his engineers were able to tunnel through solid rock and find the source of the spring that the town was drawing its water supply from, and divert it to the use of the army. The town, cut off from their water supply, capitulated at once.

Caesar's name

Main article: Etymology of the name of Julius Caesar

Using the Latin alphabet as it existed in the day of Caesar (i.e., without lower case letters, "J", or "U"), Caesar's name is properly rendered "GAIVS IVLIVS CAESAR" (the form "CAIVS" is also attested using the old Roman pronunciation of letter C as G; it is an antique form of the more common "GAIVS"). It is often seen abbreviated to "C. IVLIVS CAESAR". (The letterform "Æ" is a ligature, which is often encountered in Latin inscriptions where it was used to save space, and is nothing more than the letters "ae".) In classical Latin, it was pronounced IPA [ˈgaːius ˈjuːlius ˈkaisar] (note that the first name, like the second, is properly pronounced in three syllables, not two) (see Latin spelling and pronunciation). In the days of the late Roman Republic, many historical writings were done in Greek, a language most educated Romans studied. Young wealthy Roman boys were often taught by Greek slaves and sometimes sent to Athens for advanced training, as was Caesar's principal assassin, Brutus. In Greek, during Caesar's time, his family name was written Καίσαρ, reflecting its contemporary pronunciation. Thus his name is pronounced in a similar way to the pronunciation of the German Kaiser. Clearly, this German name was not derived from the Middle Ages Ecclesiastical Latin, in which the familiar part "Caesar" is [ˈtʃeːsar], from which the modern English pronunciation (a much-softened "SEE-zer") is derived.

Caesar's family


  • Father



    • First marriage to Cornelia Cinnilla
    • Second marriage to Pompeia Sulla
    • Third marriage to Calpurnia Pisonis


    • Julia with Cornelia Cinnilla
    • Possibly Caesarion, with Cleopatra VII, who would become Pharaoh with the name Ptolemy Caesar.
    • Adopted son, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (his great-nephew by blood), later known as Augustus.
    • Possible, but seemingly unlikely, Marcus Junius Brutus with Servilia Caepionis.


    • Grandson from Julia and Pompey, dead at several days, unnamed

    Female lovers

    • Cleopatra VII
    • Servilia Caepionis, mother of Brutus

    Notable relatives

    • Gaius Marius ( married to his Aunt Julia)
    • Lucius Cornelius Sulla (possibly through Marriage)

    Possible male lovers

    Roman society viewed the passive role during sex, regardless of gender, to be a sign of submission or inferiority. Indeed, Suetonius says that in Caesar's Gallic triumph, his soldiers sang that, "Caesar may have conquered the Gauls, but Nicomedes conquered Caesar".[27] According to Cicero, Bibulus, Gaius Memmius (whose account may be from firsthand knowledge), and others (mainly Caesar's enemies), he had an affair with Nicomedes IV of Bithynia early in his career. The tales were repeated by some Roman politicians as a way to humiliate and degrade him. It is possible that the rumors were spread only as a form of character assassination. Caesar himself, according to Cassius Dio, denied the accusations under oath.[28]

    Mark Antony charged that Octavian had earned his adoption by Caesar through sexual favors. Suetonius described Antony's accusation of an affair with Octavian as political slander. The boy Octavian was to become the first Roman emperor following Caesar's death.[29]




    Was voted the title Divus, or "god," after his death.

    During his life, he received many honours, including titles such as Pater Patriae (Father of the Fatherland), Pontifex Maximus (Highest Priest), and Dictator. The many titles bestowed on him by the Senate are sometimes cited as a cause of his assassination, as it seemed inappropriate to many contemporaries for a mortal man to be awarded so many honours.

    As a young man he was awarded the Corona Civica (civic crown) for valor while fighting in Asia minor.

    Perhaps the most significant title he carried was his name from birth: Caesar. This name would be awarded to every Roman emperor, and it became a signal of great power and authority far beyond the bounds of the empire. The title became the German Kaiser and Slavic Tsar/Czar. The last tsar in nominal power was Simeon II of Bulgaria whose reign ended in 1946; for two thousand years after Julius Caesar's assassination, there was a least one head of state bearing his name.

    Note, however, that Caesar was an ordinary name of no more importance than other cognomen like Cicero and Brutus. It did not become an Imperial title until well after Julius Caesar's death.


    See also

    • Cultural depictions of Julius Caesar
    • Nine Worthies
    • Caesar cipher
    • Julio-Claudian family tree


    1. ^ Official name after 42 BC, Imperator Gaius Iulius Caesar Divus (in inscriptions IMP•C•IVLIVS•CAESAR•DIVVS), in English, "Imperator Gaius Julius Caesar, the deified one". Also in inscriptions, Gaius Iulius Gaii Filius Gaii Nepos Caesar, in English, "Gaius Julius Caesar, son of Gaius, grandson of Gaius".
    2. ^ Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars: Julius ^ Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7.7. The misconception that Julius Caesar himself was born by Caesarian section dates back at least to the 10th century (Suda kappa 1199). However, he was not the first to bear the name, and in his time the procedure was only performed on dead women, while Caesar's mother, Aurelia, lived long after he was born.
    3. ^ Historia Augusta: Life of Aelius ^ Suetonius, Julius ^ Suetonius, Julius ^ Suetonius, Lives of Eminent Grammarians ^ Suetonius, Julius ^ Appian, Civil Wars ^ Suetonius, Julius ^ Velleius Paterculus, Roman History ^ Suetonius, Julius ^ Appian, Civil Wars ^ Suetonius, Julius ^ William Smith, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities: Flamen
    4. ^ Suetonius, Julius ^ Appian. Civil Wars ^ Suetonius, Julius ^ Plutarch, Sulla ^ Suetonius, Julius ^ Suetonius, Julius ^ Again, according to Suetonius's chronology (Julius ^ Suetonius, Julius ^ Suetonius, Julius ^ Suetonius, Julius ^ Plutarch, Caesar ^ Suetonius, Julius ^ Suetonius, Julius ^ Suetonius, Augustus



      • Julius Caesar makes an appearance in Dante's Inferno (Canto IV) of the Divine Comedy, in which he is seen in Limbo amongst other great historical figures including Aeneas, Homer, Ovid, Horace and Lucan.
      Wikisource has original works written by or about:
      Julius Caesar
      Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
      Julius Caesar
      Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
      Julius Caesar

      Primary sources

      Caesar's own writings

      • Forum Romanum Index to Caesar's works online in Latin and translation
      • Collected works of Caesar in Latin, Italian and English
      • Caesar and contemporaries on the civil wars
      • omnia munda mundis Hypertext of Caesar's De Bello Gallico
      • Works by Julius Caesar at Project Gutenberg

      Ancient historians on Caesar

      • Suetonius: The Life of Julius Caesar. (Latin and English, cross-linked: the English translation by J. C. Rolfe.)
      • Suetonius: The Life of Julius Caesar (J. C. Rolfe English translation, modified)
      • Plutarch: The Life of Julius Caesar (English translation)
      • Plutarch: The Life of Mark Antony (English translation)
      • Plutarch on Antony (English translation, Dryden edition).
      • Cassius Dio, Books 37–44 (English translation)
      • Appian, Book 13 (English translation)

      Secondary sources

      • Julius Caesar Suzanne Cross's site with in‑depth history of Caesar, plus a timeline and links.
      • C. Julius Caesar Jona Lendering's in‑depth history of Caesar (Livius. Org)
      • Julius Caesar — An Annotated Guide to Online Resources categorized into Primary Sources, Background & Images, Modern Essays & Historical Fiction.
      • Julius Caesar, page with many links in several languages, including English
      • History of Julius Caesar
      • The Heart of Change: Julius Caesar and the End of the Roman Republic
      • Julius Caesar at BBC History

      Further reading

      • Goldsworthy, Adrian. Caesar: Life of a Colossus. New Heaven, CT; London: Yale University Press, 2006 (hardcover, ISBN 0300120486).
      • Holland, Tom. Rubicon : the Last Years of the Roman Republic. New York : Doubleday, 2003 (hardcover, ISBN 1400078970).
      • Jiménez, Ramon L. Caesar Against Rome: The Great Roman Civil War. Westpoint, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2000 (hardcover, ISBN 0-275-96620-8).
      • Meier, Christian. Caesar: A Biography. New York: Basic Books, 1996 (hardcover, ISBN 0465008941); 1997 (paperback, ISBN 046500895X).


      Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans
      Alcibiades and Coriolanus - Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar - Aratus & Artaxerxes and Galba & Otho - Aristides and Cato the Elder
      Crassus and Nicias - Demetrius and Antony - Demosthenes and Cicero - Dion and Brutus - Fabius and Pericles - Lucullus and Cimon
      Lysander and Sulla - Numa and Lycurgus - Pelopidas and Marcellus - Philopoemen and Flamininus - Phocion and Cato the Younger - Pompey and Agesilaus
      Poplicola and Solon - Pyrrhus and Gaius Marius - Romulus and Theseus - Sertorius and Eumenes
      Tiberius Gracchus & Gaius Gracchus and Agis & Cleomenes - Timoleon and Aemilius Paullus - Themistocles and Camillus


      Suetonius' Lives of the Twelve Caesars, or de vita Caesarum
      Julius Caesar - Augustus - Tiberius - Caligula - Claudius - Nero - Galba - Otho - Vitellius - Vespasian - Titus - Domitian
      Preceded by:
      Lucius Afranius and Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer
      Consul of the Roman Republic
      with Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus
      59 BC
      Succeeded by:
      Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus and Aulus Gabinius
      Preceded by:
      Lucius Cornelius Lentulus Crus and Gaius Claudius Marcellus Maior
      Consul of the Roman Republic
      with Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus
      48 BC
      Succeeded by:
      Quintus Fufius Calenus and Publius Vatinius
      Preceded by:
      Quintus Fufius Calenus and Publius Vatinius
      Consul of the Roman Republic
      with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus
      46 BC
      Succeeded by:
      Gaius Julius Caesar without colleague
      Preceded by:
      Gaius Julius Caesar and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus
      Consul of the Roman Republic
      without colleague
      45 BC
      Succeeded by:
      Gaius Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonius
      Preceded by:
      Gaius Julius Caesar without colleague
      Consul of the Roman Republic
      with Marcus Antonius
      44 BC
      Succeeded by:
      Aulus Hirtius and Gaius Vibius Pansa Caetronianus
      Preceded by:
      Lucius Cornelius Sulla
      Dictator of the Roman Republic
      46 BC-44 BC
      Succeeded by:


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